One of life’s simple pleasures is relaxing in a garden filled with beautiful plants. The ‘outdoor room’ is often the best room in the house, a retreat from the hassles of the working day. But what if you or someone in your home is an asthmatic or suffers from plant allergies? It might seem an insurmountable problem, but there is a solution. Rid your garden of the troublemakers and choose plants that are safe for asthmatics and allergy sufferers. You may lose some plants you love, but you will gain peace of mind.
The first step to a safe garden is to identify those trees, bushes, and flowers in your garden which cause a reaction. The chief culprits are plants which produce airborne pollens. Among the flowers look out for amaranth, sunflowers, alyssum and chrysanthemums, while climbing vines like jasmine, lilac and wisteria are other hazards. It is these pollens which invade human airways and cause hay fever. There are many non-allergenic flowers to replace them, These are self-pollinating plants which have male and female components that fertilize themselves – no pollen needed. Bulbs like hyacinth, daffodil and snowdrop are excellent allergy-free choices and are always welcome in the garden, Other garden favorites such as carnations, geraniums and pansies are also wise choices for beds and borders. Herb lovers should avoid chamomile and wormwood but can grow thyme, lavender, rosemary and other aromatic herbs as much as they like.
A rose garden is a constant delight but asthmatics and allergy sufferers have to make good rose choices to be able to enjoy the. Some roses can cause a reaction if they have an abundance of pollen or are highly scented. But there are many varieties that will cause no trouble. A favorite in allergy free gardens is the glorious double pink Cecil Brunner, but most roses register from 1-2 on the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS) where a low number is an assurance that a plant will not cause allergies.
Trees are more complex, as only the male trees, which send out pollen to fertilize their female counterparts, cause allergic reactions. You may be able to keep some pollen producing trees if you can identify which are male and which are female and remove only the male trees, pollen will still be a hazard from other trees in the neighborhood. If you are planning a new garden, or want to remove trees which cause problems, avoid trees which need a male and female to pollinate, like olive, oak or elm. Check with your local nursery to make the right choices. Fruit trees like apple, plum and cherry are good choices, providing spring blossoms and fruit, while citrus trees are pollinated by insects so are safe to grow.
Keeping your garden free of weeds can also be beneficial to asthma and allergy sufferers. Weeds are notorious for causing allergies. There is even a weed called the asthma weed, a Mediterranean plant that flourishes in sunny climates. Weeds need to be completely eradicated, for they will just grow back if any root remains. Any plant that sends out seeds on the wind to pollinate is a likely cause of allergies, so check common areas around your home as well. Some grasses cause allergies, such as rye, so it is best to choose buffalo grass or another ground cover for lawns.
Mold in the garden is another problem for asthmatics. You will normally eradicate mold inside your house, but the garden is often overlooked. In 2010, a research team at the University of Leicester in the UK found that sputum from asthma patients contained common garden mold. The most likely sources were compost and soil. So in an asthma-safe garden, avoid open compost bins and heaps.
Check for other places where mold and fungus can grow, such as wood piles and rotting logs. Areas that are normally damp and shady should be opened up and allowed to dry out. An allergy and asthma-safe garden also allows sufferers to be able to work in their gardens as well as relax. Potting mix, compost and other garden soil can create allergic reactions, so sufferers should wear a mask to keep mold spores from entering their airways. Wear a mask if you grow mushrooms or, if someone else in the family has an allergy, keep your mushroom farms under cover in a basement or garage. For seriously affected asthmatics, it may be safer to remove them altogether and get your mushrooms from the supermarket.
Outdoor furniture can be another mold hazard, so check your installations, tarps and sheds, Air them thoroughly after winter and wash down any item that has mildew on it. Make a homemade solution of half a cup of powdered borax to one cup of hot water and one cup of cold and put it in a spray bottle. This will remove the mildew and the cushions, chairs and other items can be left out to dry on a sunny day.
With these simple precautions and careful planting, you can make your garden a haven that everyone can enjoy.